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‘The way to go’

Every time I hear or read about a “hazing related death,” I am reminded of how many college friends followed the bloody and brutal path of fraternity initiations all in honor of tradition or to preserve the long line of membership handed to them by their very own fathers.

The saddest part of it all was the fact that half of the time, my friends were taught and nearly brainwashed into believing that failure or choosing not to be a member of the fraternity was tantamount to betrayal, a life-long disappointment and guilt. Everyone talks about peer pressure but no one dares to challenge extreme parental pressure.

I too underwent the sharing and indoctrination about what the best school or university to go to, what fraternity my Dad joined and what good came out of it. Fortunately my parents spent more time talking about God, patriotism, and making intelligent decisions. The motto was “God, Country, Family.” Soon it came my time to face the challenges of recruitment and my best friend who had become a frat member was under so much pressure to recruit me. Failing to accomplish that, he demanded a straight answer why I refused to join his frat or any other frat for that matter. I stepped back, looked him in the eyes and asked: “If you can tell me one thing your frat can give me that I cannot get on my own – I will join.

For the first time in his entire fraternity life he was stumped and being the sensible chap that he was he said: “ You know what, You’re right” and that was the end of it. Another thing that saved me from the clutches of fraternity recruiters was my knack for being friends with everybody from all sides and all frats. I regularly sat and ate lunch or merienda, played basketball or just hung out during class breaks with different groups and treated them like regular barkadas. This was something I learned from my parents who actively trained and supported us to have a wide circle of friends.

I am reminded of Proverbs 22 that teaches parents in particular to: “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Training is quite different from tradition. Training requires long term mentoring, reason, logic and benefit. Tradition is not necessarily made clear or make sense and sometimes just because three generations of men or families did something, it does not always mean they remain relevant or make sense.

A story goes about a family in rural America that always observed Thanksgiving but had the unique tradition of cooking only half a turkey. Then on one particular Thanksgiving Day, the youngest members of the family wanted to know why they were the only ones in the county if not the country that cooked only half a turkey? One adult surmised it was to commemorate the hard times when poverty hounded the older generation. Another justified the tradition as a sign of frugality and practicality since no normal family can finish an oversized turkey in one sitting and it would be such a waste.

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The young kin however was not satisfied so they decided to ask Grandma. “There’s really no special reason why we cook only half a turkey. Fact is our oven back then was so tiny we could only fit half a turkey in it.”  It is often said “It’s hard to fly like an Eagle when you’re surrounded by Turkeys.” I think it’s worse when you’re born an Eagle but raised to think like a Turkey!

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Has anybody noticed the fact that the real important work of the Legislative branch of government keeps getting interrupted by headlines? In the last month alone, the Senate has devoted much of its time INVESTIGATING issues driven by headlines. First it was the series of killings of innocent minors in Caloocan City. Then followed the corruption issues at the Bureau of Customs, and most recently and surprisingly was how the members of the Senate were working way past their dinner time to investigate the hazing related death of a UST student.

While I condole with the bereaved family who lost a good son, the Senate investigation painfully reflects the inequality and injustice in the Philippines. Poor or ordinary victims and their families only get to confront their enemies or victimizers at the “precinto” or the fiscal’s office. But when the victim comes from an upper class family, everybody goes to the Senate!

Playing second fiddle in all of these of course are specific congressional committees that have conducted their own investigations in aid of legislation. The problem is the headline-driven efforts of the Senate and Congress also means that national concerns that affect daily lives and the economy and security are now second place or of less concern to the legislators. Banks are under watch by regulators because too much money may be being poured into property development. The economy they say is over heating alongside our cars and minds because nothing is being accomplished to ease traffic and we have what amounts to an HIV epidemic that escalates daily. But they’re not headlines, so no comment.

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While listening to the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing regarding corruption at the BOC, I can’t help but say that the investigations were so thorough that the Senators might as well be the police investigators, the fiscal, and the Judge because they effectively did the work of other departments and agencies and pretty much usurped their authority in terms of law enforcement. In fact their thorough investigation exposed everything, that by today, any suspect or guilty party with half a brain has probably fled the country.

I believe in doing your job well, but when you display your work for public viewing it’s a public performance, not an investigation. Real investigation work is based on confidentiality, not publicity.

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Email: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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